PAH compounds at acceptable level in smoked fish products

20.10.2006

<div>The Finnish Food Safety Authority implemented a control project in 2005, in which the presence of PAH compounds in smoked fish products was investigated. None of the samples exceed the maximum limit of 5 micrograms/kg specified for benzo(a)pyrene.</div>

A total of 62 samples of smoked fish were collected in 2005 from the municipalities under supervision of the provinces. The species that were investigated included rainbow trout, salmon, Baltic herring, vendace, whitefish, pallas, ocean perch, mackerel and herring. The samples were analysed for 15 PAH compounds, i.e. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The maximum limit of 5 micrograms/kg had been amended for one of these compounds, benzo(a)pyrene, that same year.

The highest analysed content of benzo(a)pyrene, 4.1 micrograms/kg, was found in a hot-smoked slice of salmon. Four hot-smoked products, which were all also characterised by a stronger smell of smoke and a dark colour, approached a benzo(a)pyrene level of 1 microgram/kg. With the exception of one product, none of the cold-smoked products exceeded 0.3 micrograms/kg. In liquid-smoked products benzo(a)pyrene levels remained below the determination limit. The results indicated that a higher benzo(a)pyrene level is associated with a higher content of total PAH compounds.

In addition to PAH analyses, the investigation also focused on in-house control procedures, as the Food Safety Authority requires that control of benzo(a)pyrene is included in the in-house control plan of fish product establishments. Also other questions pertaining to smoking were made, for purposes of a survey that it is being conducted in the EU. An in-house control plan was in place in 94% of the investigated establishments, but in only 3% of the establishments control of PAH compounds was included in in-house control. A little more than 25% of the fish product establishments were aware of the maximum limits specified for benzo(a)pyrene.

The low benzo(a)pyrene levels in fish products can probably be attributed to the fact that most of the fish are not skinned before smoking. When the skin is then removed, the level of PAH compounds decreases. The samples were skinned for the analyses, except for four samples of canned vendace, as they are also eaten complete with the skin.

The most common smoking process was hot smoking using different methods, such as a smoking oven, a smoke generator, wood chip smoking, a smoking pan or a smoking box. 23% of the samples had been cold smoked and 8% liquid-smoked. In most cases smoking was realised directly on the product, and the smoking time varied from a few minutes to several hours. In eleven samples the smoke was filtered, and their benzo(a)pyrene levels were below 0.3 micrograms/kg. According to the notes made by the persons who collected the samples, the colour of the smoked fish had been medium brown in 63% and light brown in 15% of the samples. 11% of the smoked products were dark brown in colour.

The results of the investigation (Excel)

For more information, please contact:
Anja Hallikainen, Senior Officer, Evira, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24287

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